Amanda Little

Amanda Little, Grist's former Muckraker columnist, is author of Power Trip: The Story of America's Love Affair with Energy. She teaches investigative journalism at Vanderbilt University and her articles on energy and the environment have appeared in publications including Vanity Fair and The New York Times Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter: @littletrip.

On climate change, other nations get cracking while the U.S. is slacking

The recent Milan conference on the Kyoto Protocol started out with a bang — a commotion of rumors about Russia’s ratification of the treaty — and went out with a whimper, offering no clear signal that the landmark accord on climate change would ever become international law. But one important development became clear amidst the flimflam: Kyoto-supporting countries, including Japan, Canada, and those of the European Union, are not going to stand around and wait for the rogue elephants Russia and the United States to join the pack. Instead of idling while the treaty negotiations make slow progress, these countries …

The Supreme Court may alleviate Cheney’s energy task force troubles

On Monday, the Supreme Court offered Vice President Dick Cheney a possible escape hatch from the great energy task force imbroglio. The high court agreed to hear an appeal from Cheney, who for more than a year has been defying a federal judge’s order to pony up documents about his infamous 2001 task force. Those behind the lawsuit against the veep are certain the documents will reveal that the White House was canoodling with industrial interests behind closed doors as it worked to establish national energy policy. See Dick play hide and seek. Photo: White House. The legal saga began …

Bush’s latest clean-air proposals are better than nothing, but how much better?

Who let the smog out? Photo: EPA “I hate it that we’re always complaining,” said Eric Schaeffer, a former senior enforcement official at the U.S. EPA who resigned in 2002 to protest the Bush administration’s poor record on nabbing polluters. “So, looking on the bright side, I suppose you could call this better than nothing.” Schaeffer was referring to rules proposed last Thursday by the Bush administration that would cap emissions of sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain) and nitrogen oxide (which contributes to smog) at power plants in 32 states. Those proposed caps hardly registered on the Geiger counter …

Climate talks are on the rocks, but not dead yet

The hippest catwalk in Milan this week. Photo: IISD. Milan is famous for opera and fashion, so perhaps it’s appropriate that the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol conference, being held in the Italian city this week and next, has so far been characterized by high drama and public spectacle. Some 180 negotiators from around the world have been treated to rumors of deliberate sabotage and shady backroom deals, derisive public statements about the treaty from leading U.S officials, and bogus news reports that Russia had dealt a fatal blow to the beleaguered pact (one such report was summarized in yesterday’s Daily …

NRDC’s new Santa Monica building may be the most eco-friendly in the U.S.

Do you realize we are gathered in what must be the greenest building in the United States?” Natural Resources Defense Council Executive Director Frances Beinecke asked a crowd of well-scrubbed Californians gathered for the opening ceremony of the organization’s new SoCal headquarters in Santa Monica. Swilling mimosas and nibbling croissants on the building’s sunny, plant-strewn terrace, everyone cheered and grinned at the rhetorical question, well aware that they were standing at the newest altar of sustainability. I, for one, had sprung for a plane ticket to Santa Monica as though I were heading out on a pilgrimage to the Emerald …

Bush administration floats new plan that would gut wetland protections

It’s close to a nightmare scenario and at the very least it’s a very bad dream.” That’s how Jim Murphy, wetlands and water resources counsel at the National Wildlife Federation*, characterized a draft-stage rewrite of a Clean Water Act rule, which was leaked to The Los Angeles Times by a top government official earlier this month. The rewrite has been in the works since January 2003, when then-EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced the administration’s intention to change the way the act is implemented, potentially removing protections from some 20 million acres, or 20 percent of areas now classified as wetlands …

The Bush administration is jettisoning real scientists in favor of yes-men

Craig Manson. Photo: USFWS. In the final days of October, Craig Manson, assistant Interior secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, dealt a “Godfather”-style blow to a team of government biologists that was about to release a final report with flow recommendations for the Missouri River — a blow that could have a sizable ripple effect on the river itself. The report was to have argued for the need to better mimic the natural flow of the Missouri (releasing more water from hydroelectric dams in the spring and less in the summer) to prevent extinction of the river’s endangered sturgeon, …

Should enviros embrace liquefied natural gas?

It’s clear from the name alone that liquefied natural gas (LNG) is an oxymoronic commodity — but its chemical state is just one of the many paradoxes of this increasingly popular energy source. On the one hand, natural gas is the cleanest-burning fossil fuel and among the most viable near-term alternatives to coal, which currently accounts for more than 50 percent of the U.S. electricity supply. Many environmentalists have advocated it as an energy source that contributes minimally to climate change and air pollution when compared with the rest of the fossil-fuel family. Well, well, well. Photo: DOE. On the …

The climate bill lost out, but the environment may yet prove the winner

“We were nervous as hell,” said Kevin Curtis, vice president of National Environmental Trust, describing the sentiment leading up to last Thursday’s Senate vote that defeated the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, 43 to 55. “But it’s a great start. This may seem to be a defeat now, but in the end, it’s a victory.” Lieberman stumps for his bill. Photo: U.S. Senate. The victory lies in the gamesmanship surrounding the landmark bill, which was the first serious congressional attempt to rein in global warming. Three weeks ago, the bill reportedly had only 32 votes firmly in support of it; more …